Asparagus: A Brief History

The way we are enjoying asparagus today, you would think it has just been recently discovered. The truth is asparagus has been around for an unimaginably long time.

It has been cultivated as early as 600 BC by the Greeks. Early records depicting the spear-like vegetable described its cultivation. In 75 AD, Pliny, a Roman writer, even complained the tediously long time it takes to grow respectable asparagus. That’s how old this vegetable is, if not older.

Long before it was considered as food, asparagus was first used as a medicine. A Greek physician, Galen, recorded the curing effects of this veggie describing it as “heating, cleansing and desicative.” When sprouts, roots, seeds and stems are mixed together in a concoction, it is said to relieve a host of ailments such as inflammation, obstruction in the kidneys and liver. It also relaxes the bowels and strengthens those who are feeling weak.

As time went on, people started discovering asparagus as a vegetable. When in season, the Romans and Greeks try to enjoy it as much as they can. Before winter comes, they dry the vegetable for use during the cold season.

In 1241, crusaders started importing asparagus seeds. By the time 16th century rolled around, asparagus was in full production in southern France and England. Even during that time, people knew how asparagus should be cooked—quickly. The Roman Emperor, Augustus was believed to say “quicker than you can cook asparagus” if he wants something to be done quickly.

Asparagus arrived in the United States in 1672 through the early colonists. The veggie, then dubbed “Food of Kings” was called such for a reason. King Louis XVI loved the taste of asparagus so much he instructed his gardeners to grow it in hothouses so he can eat it whenever he wants to. Julius Cesar also enjoyed the taste of asparagus especially when it’s cooked with butter.

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